IELTS Speaking Practice: Making complaints, writing blogs

24th July 2020

Making complaints

Drop Dead”: Why Harassment By Customers is Spiking in Japan | by ...

You buy a T-shirt from a shop, but when you get home, you see the quality is very bad.

How do you feel ? You feel terribly …

What would you do ?

When you return an item to the shop, what do you need in your country ?

Use this video for help. Listen out for new vocabulary or expressions as well as copying her accent.

Vocabulary

I am sorry to have to say this but …

I’m sorry to say this but I am really quite upset/angry/disappointed

Perhaps there was a misunderstanding but …

There appears to be a problem here …”

I’m sorry but I’d like to make a complaint about …”

Could you help me with …?

PRACTICE

One student is an shop assistant, the other an upset customer. 

You have bought a dress but it is very bad quality. 

How would you complain ? [Be polite, speak calmly and politely].

How to Deal with Difficult Customers: 11 Proven Tips for Retailers ...

How about in this situation: 

You go to a restaurant to celebrate a special event. When the bill arrives the amount is much, much more than you expected. It looks like you were charged for extra items you did not order.

What would you do ?

Angry Bagel Shop Customer To Fight Other Viral Video Star | Putnam ...

Speaking practice 

Try to speak in long sentences. Tell me about something you like – say why you like it, but also something negative. Remember to use good discourse markers.

EXAMPLE:

I love Highland Coffee because I need damn fine coffee every morning and Highlands has a good choice as well as great quality. I can choose all different types of coffee, some hot, some cold, some with added flavour, and they come in different sizes. In addition, the chairs are comfortable, not to mention the free wifi and no-smoking policy. Having said that, it is rather expensive, especially compared with Milano however I feel the extra cost is worth it.

Now … your turn

Subjects – to help you, talk about smartphone // video games // sport // your pet // shopping // cooking // your best friend

Comparatives and superlatives.

Big / bigger / biggest

interesting / more interesting / the most interesting

Blog writing:

Your apartment block is starting a chat-site for working parents. They invite anyone to join who has both a job and children. They ask you to send a photo and give some brief information.

OR

Your apartment block is starting a chat-site for people who want to practise English

Write a short introduction about yourself for a blogpage. 

What information do you need to add ? What is unimportant ?

What kind of photo would you add ?

IELTS: Introduce your answers, and speaking review.

21st July 2020

I Think I'll Go Home and Mull This Over Before I Cram It Down My ...

A good introduction is not just beneficial but imperative for an impressive IELTS response. Therefore, this blog will mainly, although not exclusively, focus on a strong opening gambit, an attention-grabbing prologue.

Useful expressions

If you need some time to think, employ one of these ‘time-buying’ expressions:

That’s a very interesting question 

Well, there is so much to say about that subject, where shall I start ? 

It’s funny you put that question to me because earlier today I was just thinking about …

Let me think …

How can I put it …

Well, I would say …

Quick warm up: What do you do in your free time ?

I meet my friends for coffee

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends

Which answer do you think would impress the examiner ?

Now … your turn

Where would you like to visit in Viet Nam (or your own country) ?

DON’T answer immediately; introduce the answer by repeating or rephrasing the question:

Vietnam has many beautiful places but my choice would be Hoi An.

Vietnam is famous for it’s beautiful beaches, vibrant cities and amazing nature but for me, Hoi An is the one place I would love to explore.

1 Tell me about your hometown

Thank you for letting me introduce to you my hometown which is Da Nang, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, although it is much smaller than Ha Noi or Sai Gon. 

2 Talk about a film you like

Talk about cinema or films in general DON’T immediately talk about your favourite film.

Watching films and going to the cinema is one of my passions, so choosing just one film is going to be terribly difficult, not to say impossible. However, if I have to select one film, it would be ‘Lost in Translation’, with Scarlett Johannsson.

3 Do you use computers at work or school ?

Laptops are an incredibly useful piece of technology. They can be used for work, hobbies, music and to stay in touch with friends.

Practice: try forming introductions for these questions

Home

  • Do you live alone or with friends / family ?
  • How long have you lived there ?
  • Is there anything you don’t like about living there ?
  • What sort of accommodation would you like to like in ?

Shopping

  • Do you like going shopping for clothes
  • Is fashion important to you ?
  • Do you have to wear a uniform at school or work ?
  • Where do you normally buy your food and why there ?

Free Time

  • Do you do any sporting activities ?
  • What do you like to do at weekends ?
  • What would you change about your daily routine ?
Nanci Griffith - Once In A Very Blue Moon (1986, CD) | Discogs
Once in a VERY blue moon by Nanci Griffith

Review … from my recent classes, make sure you have learnt these words and expressions:

Keep your nose to the grindstone' - meaning and origin.
Put your nose to the grindstone

endeavour (to try) // outcome (the result) // ubiquitous (everywhere) // tedious (boring) // fascinating (very interesting) // sky-high (expensive)

once in a blue moon (very rare) // put my nose to the grindstone (work especially hard) // achieve on merit (to get something by working for it) // burn the candle at both ends (work day and night) // give or take (about, approximately) // big time ! (absolutely, totally, very much) // I’ll mull it over (I’ll think about it) //

although // additionally // therefore // moreover // having said that // on the other hand

Rewrite the following using IELTS-language:

English grammar is (adverb) boring and I spend about two hours a day studying grammar. I work all day, and go to evening class and then study. I study all day and night.

I almost never have any free time. If I have free time, I go to drink coffee. Coffee shops are everywhere but in some the prices are not cheap.

My friend Tom never studies. His uncle will give him a job, but I want to deserve my job. Tom is (adverb) lazy. I tell him to try to study grammar, to work very hard / but / he never listens. He thinks video games are very interesting. He (adverb) says he’ll think about it but nothing changes

so the result will be a ‘FAIL’

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Unique coffee spot La Viet in Da lat, Central Vietnam | Coffee ...

Coffee shops in Sai Gon are ubiquitous although in some, the prices are sky-high.

Finally, if you did well :

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IELTS Speaking Practice: “Lend me your ears,” and take a tip from Thay Paul

16th July 2020

Julius Caesar Quote: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ...
A quote from Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language

Recap: to pass IELTS with flying colours, you will needs to demonstrate a command of everyday English, the ability to express it with stress and intonation, as well as being able to link your ideas with appropriate discourse markers.

I need to hear nouns described by interesting adjectives, verbs intensified by adverbs and conversation enlivened by low-frequency vocabulary.

Piece of cake, right ?

Low – frequency words (LFW)

Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded // expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.

Activity 1: Make sentences using the above five LFW

Introduce your answer by:

Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question

Useful expressions:

In my opinion // From my perspective // For me // Allow me to explain // By which I mean //

Discourse Markers:

as well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that

Activity 2: Give each student a discourse marker and they have to use it in a sentence

EXAMPLE ‘in addition’

I have a busy life; I have to study, work my part-time job and help my family. In addition, I go shopping for my neighbour because he is too old to go out.

NOTE: use of ‘because‘ to explain why you do something … and therefore construct a longer sentence.

Idioms:

It’s raining cats and dogs // It costs an arm and a leg // piece of cake // I’m burning the candle at both ends.

Activity 3: Who can use these idioms correctly ?

Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose

Activity 4: Use the correct relative pronoun:

We arrived at a nice beach ______ we could swim and lie in the sun.

A man ______ mobile phone was ringing did not know how to switch it off.

The patient, ______ had a serious disease, was taken to hospital immediately.

Smithsfield is a small village ______ people live a quiet life.

This dress is made of silk, _____ is a very expensive and delicate material.

Buying time:

Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question

Model answer: What do you do in your free time ?

AsianBossG;r)

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from Japan and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues. Allow me to explain; we have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.

Use this an a plan – now tell me what YOU do in YOUR free time … DO NOT just copy the above example !

Now … Your turn

Conversation Practice: In pairs or small groups, ask each other these questions. If the answer is too short, ask the person to tell you more, to explain with more details.

How Dialogue Teaches Critical Thinking and Empathy

Family questions

Ask each other about your families

How many siblings do you have ?

[You can give names, ages, jobs, what and where they study, what they look like, what their personality is like, if you have something or nothing in common with them]

Do you live with your parents and grandparents ?

Do you often meet your cousins ?

Who is the youngest member of your family ? 

Who is the oldest ?

Who is your favourite person in your family and why ?

Useful expressions

Can you tell me more ? // In what way ? // Why do you say that ? //

Oh, that’s interesting … // well, // actually // in fact …

on the other hand // having said that // although

Keep the conversation going

Oh, really ? Tell me more Why do you say that ?

Could you explain what you mean ? Why did you do that ?

Three students talking to each other outdoor in a college ...

Final Review:

Coffee shops in Sai Gon are _________________________ .

I always forget my keys, I’m so __________________ .

In an IELTS listening test, we can sometimes _______________ the answer.

We wanted to stay at the Hotel California but the prices were _____________ .

The meeting was so long and extremely _____________________ .

IELTS: The story so far. Vocabulary review and speaking tips

7th July 2020

LUYỆN THI IELTS TẠI HẢI PHÒNG - huyenielts

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, time to take stock and make sure the students have absorbed the information and are au fait (French for well informed, know the point) with the vocabulary so far. With that in mind, here’s a quick warm up. Replace the high frequency words with low-frequency ones, then use your newly-acquired discourse markers to construct longer sentences.

Let’s kick off with some common or garden IELTS subjects:

What do you do in your free time ?

I drink coffee with my friends. There are many coffee shops in my hometown

Will Chinese Drink Coffee over Tea?

School keeps me very busy, but if I can find some time for myself, I enjoy hanging out with my friends in coffee shops, which are ubiquitous in Sai Gon.

TIP: The question here is about free time, so don’t just talk about coffee shops – mention at least two other different activities – even if you DON’T do them, just talk about them !

Example, playing music, watching films, listening to music, sports, shopping, helping family, reading – thing you enjoy NOT to do with studying or work

Now … Your Turn: [tips at the end]

Remember, you should be able to speak in complex sentences with a low-frequency word or two, some idiomatic language, contractions and discourse markers, all spiced up with a liberal sprinkling of adverbs and adjectives. Furthermore, try to introduce the answer, rather than stating it outright.

I don’t like English grammar. I am boring with it.

A lot more people go to China than Viet Nam.

She forgets everything.

Thai food is good.

I think Barcelona will beat Real Madrid on Sunday

I like to go to cinema and go to shopping and go my friend house and sleep.

I don’t go out now. It rains all day.

The examiner asks you a question but you didn’t understand

What ?

I didn’t hear you.

Errrrrr, I don’t know

OK, yes I like it

The examiner asks you a question but you need time to think of an answer.

UUuhhhmmmmmm.

Hahhahahahaha

I don’t know.

Yes.

Tell me about your city

It very dirty.

I was born here. I love it.

We can do many things here.

Has many traffic jam. Yes. people nice.

Do you like to eat ?

Of course !

No

Yes. I eat with my family. I eat with my friends at school. I eat after school. I eat at night with my family

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Words and expression to use, tips, phrases and idiomatic language.

Low – frequency words

Boring: tedious // forgetful: absent-minded //

expensive: sky high // what will happen: predict // everywhere: ubiquitous.

Could you repeat that, please // I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that // Would you mind rephrasing the question

In my opinion // From my perspective // For me //

Let me think // How can I put it // Well, that’s an interesting question

Allow me to explain // By which I mean //

As well as // furthermore // additionally // on the other hand // having said that // however // although // despite that

It’s raining cats and dogs // It costs an arm and a leg // piece of cake // I’m burning the candle at both ends

Relative pronouns – who / which / where / whose

Thai Blends Greenbelt 3 Cinema - Home | Facebook

One of my favourite things to do, if I have some spare time, is to hang out with my closest friends and just catch up on our news, maybe hit a mall because they are air-conditioned and have a wide array of amenities such as shops, cafes and, if I may say, bathroom facilities, as well as services like ATM machines and free wifi. My closest friends are Sheila, who is from India and studies here in Sai Gon, and Kerry, who is a gorgeous Thai lady. As we all come from different countries, there can be issues; allow me to explain. We have to communicate in English, however Kerry is just starting her studies, so we have to use Google translate frequently. Having said that, it’s such tremendous fun to be with my best friends. It helps me forget about the pressure and stress of work.

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Keep studying !

Cat got your tongue ? Time to talk idioms

6th June 2020

We had a number of blogs devoted to idioms, so now it’s time to practice using them as part of your everyday English. Not only will IELTS students earn points, but every student will feel closer to English, and sound more like a REAL native-speaker. You can only learn so much from text books …

So, without further ado, a range of dialogues for you to practice:

Dialogue 1

Hello, how’s it going ?

Great, thanks. What have you been up to ?

Oh, same old, same old. Nothing new. Are you busy ?

A little.

Do you want a hand ? (Dya wanna hand)

That would be wonderful. Can you take over for a moment ?

Absolutely !

I’ll be right back. I need to print out some documents.

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Dialogue 2

What shall I get on with ?

I just need you to finish off the progress reports.

Oh, piece of cake ! (pieceacake)

You’re an angel.

I know…hahaha.

Colleagues at office on coffee break | Free Photo

Dialogue 3

Hello, do you have a minute ?

Sure, what do you need ?

Could we have a little chat ?

OK, let’s go to my office. Have a seat. Now, what’s on your mind?

I’d like an increase in our budget. We desperately need a new photocopier.

Unfortunately, those things cost an arm and a leg. What is the exact price ?

I’ll find out and get back to you. We may have some money in our budget.

Office workers wasting time helping less tech-savvy colleagues

Dialogue 4

How’s the new girl ? Are you showing her the ropes?

She seems to be OK but I still need to keep an eye on her. Are we having a meeting later ?

No, it’s been called off.

Ok, back to work. I need to finish off some expense sheets. 

Yes, time is money.

See you later.

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Dialogue 5

What were you doing last night ? I tried to call.

I was watching TV. Was it important ?

We were having a party. I wanted you to come.

Your parties are such fun ! What did you do ?

We were all looking online for bargains. Anna bought some great shoes.

She’s always talking about buying shoes.

I was looking at the clothes from London. So stylish.

The friendship chat

Dialogue 6

Did you see the email from the Manager ?

Oh, that old windbag ! He was talking so much.

Yes, even his emails go on forever hahahah.

Did you bring your raincoat ? It was raining all night.

I know – it was raining cats and dogs.

They were thinking about calling off the meeting because of the rain.

Yes, maybe the traffic will be chockablock.

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Dialogue 7

Oh, do you know how to use this Zoom program ?

Yes, it’s very easy. It’s a piece of cake! Have you met Jane’s new boyfriend ?

He seems a real loser. As far as I’m concerned, she can do much better.

What does he do ?

Nothing, the work-shy layabout. I believe he wants her money.

In my experience, guys without jobs are hopeless. A waste of space !

How did she meet him ? She’s such a workaholic ! At the gym ?

Well, not at the gym, he’s no hunk ! It’s obvious to me it won’t last.

I’m convinced it’ll soon be over. She needs a good solid as a rock guy.

Understanding the Impact of Rumors and Gossip

IELTS: Complex sentences – it’s not that complicated.

24th May 2020

Portrait of a confused asian girl standing | Free Photo

Following another speaking test, I’ve noticed that my students are still speaking simple sentences and thereby losing marks, whereas with a little work, not to mention a little, or a lot, of practice, this omission can be redressed.

Therefore today’s bog, in it’s entirety, will be devoted to the forming of longer, complex sentences, altering sentence structure and general tips to improve not just speaking, but writing as well.

As you should have noticed the above two paragraphs, rather like this third one, employ several clauses, that is, parts of a sentence to give extra information without the need of a full stop, serving as examples of how this can be achieved.

You will, no doubt, experience a feeling of triumph once you have mastered this technique which, I admit, does require some new thinking and extra effort on your part but will, without a shadow of a doubt, enable you to attain the score for which you are aiming.

And now, without further ado, let’s kick off. First, a warm-up. Of today’s three highlighted expressions, which would you use for:

1 When you are certain or 100% sure about something

2 To start immediately, with no more interruptions

3 Great happiness when you have achieved or won something

Answers at end of blog

Here are some standard IELTS-type questions, followed by a typical answer and then, by way of comparison, an extended response to demonstrate improvements.

1 Tell me about your hometown 2 How often do you go online ?

3 What jobs will be important in your country in the future ?

4 Tell me about a time you received good news

An average answer, which would probably result in a middle score, around 4 – 5 would be, to take one example, (Number 2):

I go online every day because I need the internet to help me study. I use the internet to check new words in English. I go online for information for my school.

black-girl-at-laptop-378x382 - GSDM

What do you notice about this ? Firstly, what are the mistakes ?

The candidate answers the question immediately, with no introduction. This is not necessarily wrong, but a sentence leading into the response will make for a longer answer.

The second sentence is not directly relevant to the question, though it is acceptable for providing more information. I advise students to be careful, in case they start deviating from the subject.

Lastly, the third sentence just repeats what has already been said, even using the same phrase “I go online“, and then explaining the reason for using the internet NOT how often it is used.

Here’s a different way of answering.

Well, that’s interesting because I have internet access at school, at home and on my phone so I would say I’m absolutely online every day. How much time I spend online varies from day to day, but I am probably online about three hours every day, sometimes more if I have a project or if I’m playing a cool game.

See how this answer only uses two sentences , but is much superior. Let’s break down how it earns points.

Initially, we have a short introduction and the question is answered directly in the first, extended sentence.

Secondly, the first sentence includes a list of three, so this is a chance to practise speech rhythm (one, two and three) – remember, you get points by HOW you say something as well as what you say.

Thirdly, the answer uses three everyday adverbs (highlighted). ‘so‘ can also be used as an adverb, but here it is a conjunction (a word such as ‘and’, ‘but’, etc).

Additionally, the sentences employs an expression, “from day to day,” which examiners like to hear, as it shows familiarity with figurative language.

Lastly, the candidate explains what the reasons for being online, and how it affects the time spent on the internet.

Now … your turn Try to answer the same question, following this pattern.

Now … let’s move on. Question 1, my hometown.

Vietnam Student Tour, Vietnam Student Trip, Vietnam Student Holidays.

This time, I will give you facts and you arrange in an answer.

My hometown is Da Nang. Fifth largest city in Viet Nam. Is in Central Vietnam. Near historic town Hoi An. Important port. Many tourists. Has a cable car and a dragon bridge. Famous for its beach.

Dragon Bridge in Da Nang - Attraction in Da Nang, Vietnam - Justgola
Dragon Bridge at Da Nang

Thank you for letting me introduce to you my hometown which is Da Nang, one of the biggest cities in Vietnam, although it is much smaller than Ha Noi or Sai Gon. My hometown is in the middle … in central Viet Nam, I mean, sorry, and had many tourists. They come to see many things such as the Dragon Bridge, go on the cable car or for swimming. Also, Da Nang is very near many famous places such as Hoi An. As it is on the coast, my hometown is also a busy port.

Check for

Introduction

Information in first sentence

Discourse marker ‘ although

Correcting a mistake in line 3

A list of three items in lines 4 and 5

Change of sentence structure in the last line: instead of saying, “My hometown is also a busy port because it is on the coast,” I started with the end of that sentence (it is on the coast) and replaced ‘because’ with ‘as’ (though because would also be all right to use).

To practise:

Rearrange these sentences, starting with the section in italics.

The London Tube needs repairing because it is so old.

Many people have to stay home because of COVID 19

We must buy vegetables because Jenny doesn’t eat meat.

Colin is now studying in Boston because he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test.

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Answers at end of blog

Answers:

1 = without a shadow of a doubt

2 = without further ado

3 = feeling of triumph

Because it is so old the London Tube needs repairing.

As it is so old, the London Tube needs repairing.

As the London Tube is so old, it needs repairing (notice how the pronoun ‘it’ moves).

Due to / Because of COVID 19, many people have to stay home.

Because Jenny doesn’t eat meat, we must buy vegetables.

As he got an 8.5 in his IELTS test, Colin is now studying in Boston.

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